Union County GOP sees at least a couple years of smooth sailing
Republican candidates in Union County will have the political winds at their backs for the next couple of years as the party builds on gains that Donald Trump’s presidential victory in November helped them achieve.
That’s the assessment of county Republican Party Chairman Stanley Hunter, who vows to give all Republican candidates in local primary elections a higher profile by supporting their efforts equally without showing favoritism.
Voter turnout was intense in the county in the November general election, reaching 72 to 74 percent, Hunter said. “People don’t realize that the turnout was on Trump’s coattails,” he told the Southwest Illinois News. “It was a wave.”
County voters supported Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton by a margin of 68 to 28 percent.
Despite the enthusiasm generated by Trump’s campaign, Hunter said he was disappointed by the lack of support from the state Republican Party for local GOP candidates in November. The county GOP purchased signs for local candidates without help from the state GOP, he said.
Even so, Union County voters provided a base of support for a number of Republican victories, according to Hunter. County voters helped the party elect another Republican state senator, Dale Fowler of Harrisburg, who bested incumbent state Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton) in the 59th District. And they helped re-elect Republican state Rep. Terri Bryant of Murphysboro, who defeated Marsha Griffin in a contentious race for the 115th District slot, he said.
Hunter said he was optimistic that the Trump administration and the new Cabinet officials in Washington would spell progress for Union County.
“If he continues to keep thinking about the working man and coal miners – that’s how we make our livings down here – I think he’s got a good stand,” the county GOP chairman said. “He’s bringing in people who have business experience.”
Hunter sees hope for the local coal industry under Trump as the new Republican administration works to reverse Environmental Protection Agency regulations that were supported by President Barack Obama and led to the closure of local mining operations.
But the county GOP will also look toward helping the tourism industry, spotlighting destination food and hotel establishments as well as focusing on the draw of horseback riding and game hunting. “Tourism is the thing they’re trying to kick up into high gear,” Hunter said.
Hunter said he is also seeking opportunities for more GOP candidates in electoral contests scheduled this year and in 2018. The county GOP may field another GOP candidate to challenge county Treasurer Gwen Henry in 2018, he said, and Republicans also see state Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) in the 118th District as vulnerable in 2018. Phelps defeated GOP opponent Jason Kasiar in November.
In addition, the county GOP will work to encourage the state not to shut down any more mental institutions, since there is a continuing need for such intensive-care facilities and shutting them down would only exacerbate social ills, Hunter said.
The party also will focus on maintaining the energy generated by the November election by keeping voters active and informed about local issues and races.
“I want to keep the energy going because I don’t want to lose that … going into the midterms,” Hunter said.